For many kids summer means long days exploring new places, meeting new friends and trying new things. Parental supervision can become a bit lax and, for the most part, that’s okay. Less adult oversight is healthy for children because it allows them to develop independence and fosters social competence. However, children suffering from food allergies need close dietary supervision.
This is becoming an increasing concern. According to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, eight percent of children under 18, or approximately six million children in the U.S. have at least one food allergy. That’s roughly one in 13 children or about two in every school classroom. About 30 percent of children with food allergies are allergic to more than one food.
Most people envision allergic reactions to food as rashes or a stomachaches, but they can be life threatening. So when planning play dates, picnics, or any event including treats, keep in mind some nutritional guidelines to ensure the safety of kids with food allergies. In children, the foods most likely to cause severe allergic reactions–anaphylaxis–are peanuts, other legumes, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, milk and eggs.
If you suspect your child has food allergies, get him tested by a certified allergy physician. If the doctor has determined that your child may have a severe reaction to some foods, consider a medical alert bracelet or necklace.
Your pediatrician may prescribe a medicine device to carry with you at all times called an epinephrine auto-injector, more commonly known as an EpiPen. This tool is the size of a pen and can fit easily in your pocket or purse. It is especially important when eating out at restaurants or when on vacation.
When eating out, you can always ask the waiter about the ingredients in preferred choices. Buffets can be tricky, but when in doubt, avoid any questionable food.
Let everyone know about your child’s food allergies. Tell all your family members, friends, neighbors, babysitters, camp counselors and summer school staff. Conversely, if you are providing meals for other children, inquire about any allergies.
Being out of school allows for more parties and neighborhood events so make sure to have safe foods on hand to send with your child. If a sleepover is involved, give and get medical information, medications and an insurance card.
Thankfully, there are many good substitutes for favorite foods, such as gluten free ice cream cones and organic corn spaghetti. Check your local grocery store or take advantage of the web. Several online specialty food stores can deliver substitutes right to your doorstep. For example, if you or a family member has gluten intolerance (a wheat-related disorder), check out www.glutenfreemall.com.
For more advice, information and community support visit, www.foodallergy.org.
Continue to explore and enjoy the many joys of summer, just be extra conscientious when protecting kids from allergic reactions.
Contact Margaret Lavin at firstname.lastname@example.org.